Climate Change

The Truth About EPA Carbon Standards

5.29.2014 ·

As the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) prepares to unveil the first ever carbon pollution standards for existing power plants, industry groups—and the politicians beholden to them—are launching a preemptive misinformation campaign to obscure the rule’s enormous economic and environmental benefits.

Don’t be fooled. The new EPA standards, which are a central part of the Obama Administration’s Climate Action Plan, will have a tangible environmental impact by significantly curbing emissions from the U.S. electricity sector—which is responsible for almost 40 percent of U.S. carbon pollution. Limiting emissions is a crucial step forward in American leadership on climate change, particularly in the absence of Congressional action.

These standards will also be a boon to our economy. An analysis released today by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) finds that strong carbon standards could save American households and businesses more than $37 billion on their electric bills in 2020, while spurring investment in clean energy and energy efficiency and creating more than 274,000 jobs—not to mention creating more than $50 billion in health and environmental benefits for American families.

But that hasn’t stopped opponents of climate action from making dire, unsubstantiated predictions about the EPA’s “war on coal” and its impact on our economy. The Chamber of Commerce claimed this week that the new standards will cost the U.S. economy more than $50 billion and hundreds of thousands of jobs each year. But these numbers are based on a series of false assumptions about U.S. energy demand, the cost of energy efficiency, and the cost of cleaner energy sources. This isn’t the first time the Chamber has issued grave warnings about new regulations, only to be proven wrong. And as Paul Krugman pointed out, even if the Chamber’s inflated predictions turned out to be accurate, the costs are still relatively small—about 0.2 percent of the economy.

“If they were going to make up numbers, I’d assume they’d have made up bigger ones.”—Adele Morris, Brookings Institute economist

The reality is this: power companies across the country are already taking steps to reduce emissions, and are well-equipped to meet the new EPA standards. And because the EPA is expected to give states a great deal of flexibility in how they curb pollution, each state will be able to tailor its compliance plans and minimize costs. In fact, an analysis by Resources for Future found that the benefits of the new rule far outweigh the costs under several different policy scenarios.

The Chamber of Commerce is not only wrong on the numbers—it’s on the wrong side of history. The American people overwhelmingly support EPA action on climate change: a recent poll by Yale University found that 78 percent of Americans want the EPA to regulate carbon pollution, and 64 percent support strong standards for power plants. Despite the attempts of special interests and some politicians to muddle the debate, the threat of climate change is real and evident across our country—and now is the time to act.